Friday, April 24, 2015

John Mayall And The Bluesbreakers - A Hard Road (1967 uk, amazing blues psych rock. 2003 double disc set remaster)

More an acquired taste than a mainstream sensation, John Mayall nonetheless merits mention in the annals of pop music’s most important artists. By dedicating his efforts to the pursuit of everything blues, Mayall eschewed the trappings of British Invasion era rock and single handedly crafted a genre all for himself. A gifted multi instrumentalist and experimenter as well as a demanding taskmaster, Mayall looked to American blues for inspiration while forging an eclectic brand of music, taking the blues explorations of the Yardbirds, Animals, and early Rolling Stones to far greater heights.

Throughout his most creative period of the ‘60s, Mayall fronted an ever-changing roster of skilled players known as the Bluesbreakers. A veritable who’s who of budding English artists, Mayall’s band served as a formidable training ground for the likes of Eric Clapton among others. After Clapton’s departure in 1966, Mayall recruited the gifted Peter Green to fill the spot and recorded the album A Hard Road. Some would argue that Green, not Clapton, was the premier young guitarist of the day; with an additional 22 bonus tracks to enjoy, the newly remastered twin disc package lends ample support to that premise.

Mayall’s ability to attract and challenge talented musicians was legendary, as A Hard Road’s lineup can attest. Backing Mayall and Green are pre-Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie and drummer Aynsley Dunbar. Interestingly, as Green was often less heralded than his contemporaries in British music circles, so too was Dunbar, frequently overshadowed by the likes of Ginger Baker, Keith Moon, and Mitch Mitchell. Popular opinion aside, this incarnation of the Bluesbreakers was an impressive lot.

The 14 tracks from the original album blend Mayall’s original compositions with several noteworthy covers, (from Freddie King, Elmore James, and Willie Cobb), and a pair of Green’s own songs which allow the guitarist to shine.

As strong as this material is, the true value of the remastered A Hard Road comes by way of the second disc. Ranging from several Mayall-less recordings by Green, McVie and Dunbar, to a series of songs featuring Paul Butterfield, the 17 tracks are a vividly painted canvas of blues innovation. Also included is a pair of 1967 offerings with Mick Fleetwood on drums, and a single 1968 effort highlighted by Green trading guitar licks with future Rolling Stone Mick Taylor. As with the first disc, original numbers sit comfortably alongside assorted blues covers, as Mayall alternates between vocals, guitar and organ, while Green displays his understated fret board style.

Despite his extensive resume, Mayall’s A Hard Road serves as a crowning moment in a lengthy career, as it was recorded at the peak of his British Blues creative sensibilities. Additionally, it puts a definitive face on the enigmatic Green, whose potential was never fully realized as a premier guitarist. While their respective levels of greatness can be argued, there is no denying that Mayall and Green came together for a brief time and created some powerful material in each other’s company.

For those who enjoy Brit infused blues and boast a keen appreciation for musical uniqueness, Mayall and his band of merry men fill the bill quite nicely, as the remastered double disc A Hard Road collection is a worthwhile listening pleasure.
by Adam Williams
Disc 1
1. A Hard Road - 3:08
2. It's Over - 2:48
3. You Don't Love Me (Willie Cobbs) - 2:48
4. The Stumble (Freddie King, Sonny Thompson) - 2:51
5. Another Kinda Love - 3:04
6. Hit The Highway - 2:15
7. Leaping Christine - 2:22
8. Dust My Blues (Elmore James, Joe Josea) - 2:46
9. There's Always Work - 1:37
10.The Same Way (Peter Green) - 2:09
11.The Super-Natural (Peter Green) - 2:57
12.Top Of The Hill - 2:39
13.Some Day After Awhile (You'll Be Sorry) (Freddie King, Sonny Thompson) - 3:00
14.Living Alone - 2:23
15.Evil Woman Blues (From Raw Blues) (Peter Green) - 4:02
16.All Of My Life (Jimmie Lee Robinson) - 4:22
17.Ridin' On The L'n'N (Lionel Hampton, Dan Burley) - 2:27
18.Little By Little (Mel London, Junior Wells) - 2:45
19.Eagle Eye - 2:52
All songs by John Mayall except as noted
Disc 2
1. Looking Back (Single A-Side) (Johnny "Guitar" Watson) - 2:34
2. So Many Roads (Single B-Side) (Marshall Paul) - 4:44
3. Sitting In The Rain (Single A-Side) - 2:56
4. Out Of Reach (Single B-Side) (Peter Green) - 4:41
5. Mama, Talk To Your Daughter (Session Outtake) (Alex Atkins, J B Lenoir) - 2:37
6. Alabama Blues (Session Outtake) (J B Lenoir) - 2:29
7. Curly (Single A-Side) - 4:49
8. Rubber Duck (Single B-Side) (Aunsley Dunbar, Peter Green) - 3:57
9. Greeny (Session Outtake) (Peter Green) - 3:54
10.Missing You (Session Outtake) (Peter Green) - 1:57
11.Please Don't Tell (Session Outtake) 2:26
12.Your Funeral And My Trial (Session Outtake) (Sonny Boy Williamson) 3:54
13.Double Trouble (Single A-Side) (Otis Rush) - 3:19
14.It Hurts Me Too (Single B-Side) (Mel London) - 2:55
15.Jenny (Single A-Side) - 4:36
16.Picture On The Wall (Single B-Side) - 3:01
17.First Time Alone (From Blues From Laurel Canyon) - 5:00
All songs by John Mayall except as stated

The Bluesbreakers
*John Mayall – Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica, Piano, Organ
*Peter Green – Guitar, Vocals
*John Mcvie – Bass
*Hughie Flint – Drums
*Aynsley Dunbar – Drums
*John Almond – Saxophones
*Alan Skidmore – Saxophones
*Ray Warleigh – Wind Instruments
Additional Musicians
*Colin Allen – Drums
*Paul Butterfield – Harmonica, Vocals
*Mick Fleetwood – Drums
*Henry Lowther – Trumpet
*Nick Newell – Saxophone

1966  John Mayall Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton (Japan SHM 2 Disc Set)
1969  John Mayall - The Turning Point (Remaster And Expanded)
1967  Various Artists - Raw Blues

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  1. Thanks very much for this expanded classic...

  2. I have this one in a slightly different version, a couple of tracks are different. Thank you for this one, Marios!